The proverb, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" doesn't hold much water in 2014. The California drought has changed green envy into brown, making the golden hue the new green for lawns, parks, and the hills surrounding Benicia. Neighborhoods from Southampton to the waterfront are slowly replacing their manicured yards with drought resistant plants, artificial turf and rock. 

Rocks rock! Before recently moving into a condo with no yard at Benicia's waterfront, we used rocks for ground cover at our previous homes. Besides saving water and the cost of an irrigation system, we found the upkeep was minimal except for pulling pesky weeds that sprouted through the Visqueen.

Palm trees, yucca and an assortment of orange bird of paradise and purple Agapanthus gave color to the white and gray rocks. We also planted rose bushes that were beautiful, fragrant and hardy, needing minimal water. Coming from the Midwest where mowing the lawn was sometimes a biweekly chore, we savored the freedom of a rock yard. The first summer we moved to Benicia, we put our two sons to work at our Southampton home, moving and separating rocks into the backyard. As I recall, there was a lot of complaining about being hot and bored, with multiple requests for breaks. To this day they believe it was the worst job ever.

Water, water everywhere but not an extra drop … Benicia is almost surrounded by water, but we have found ourselves scrambling for new sources since we lost 85% of our needs that were allotted from the California State Water Project. The City council has asked its citizens to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20%, which means shorter showers, less flushing  and being creative with water repurposing. Benicia has recently opted into the HERO Program, to be launched in November/December 2014, which will allow residents to apply for financing for clean energy and water conserving improvements. The program offers a funding mechanism for improvements for both residential and commercial property owners. There is no up front cost to participating cities, and the program is completely run and managed by HERO, which administered the program for the Western Riverside Council of Governments. Benicia would be the second city in Solano County to join as an associate member; Vacaville joined as of March 17, 2014. Some of the categories for financing are solar, small wind turbines, electric vehicle charging stations and indoor and outdoor water efficiency projects. For more information, visit

There are also grants available through Solano County that include:

  • Turf replacement programs
  • Smart irrigation controllers that automatically adjust to the weather
  • Toilet replacement program
  • Complimentary engineering consultant to evaluate water conservation areas at your business, with a $5,000 matching grant towards completing those projects. 

In the March issue of Benicia Magazine, the color “Radiant Orchid,” Pantone color of the Year, was featured through local products. The way the trend is going, Blazing Brown could be the new "it" color in fashion, home décor, and possibly in your own front yard.